On the edge of Iranian elections, media coverage of the event focuses largely on the electoral candidates’ debates. A particularly lively debate developed around foreign policy issues and what line to follow. The Iranian foreign policy debate basically revolves around nuclear talks and reconciliation with the West.Iran’s presidential candidates
A rather strong debate took place between candidates Jalili and Rowhani who exchanged accusations during their debate. Jalili criticised Rowhani’s precedent subservience to the West, while Rowhani defended his role under president Khatami by arguing that their reformist policies prevented a US attack on Iran. Rowhani equally criticised Jalili’s strong stance in foreign policies and urged Iran to avoid extremism.
Moreover, while Rowhani negotiated a halt to Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, Jalili, the current nuclear negotiator, it known of his conservative ideology on this matter and warns that Western powers will only take advantage of Iran’s softening of its policies.
Mainly, while Rowhani calls for moderation and diplomacy, appealing for most through his televised speeches, Jalili hopes hardening Iranian foreign policies against the West in particular, and he urges to continue the nuclear profile of Iran.
While Rowhani calls on Iran to avoid extremism in every respect, Jalili has a strong and conservative profile not only in politics but in religion as well. Besides vowing to stand up to the West and taking up the challenge, Jalili also expressed his desire to spread the influence of Islam on a global range. He also continuously expresses his obedience to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which is, as he points it out, a must for the president-to-be.Iranian foreign policy debates on TV
Although Jalili attracted the support of most of the hardliners, he also found his attackers in the political field, and not only Rowhani. Velayati, another candidate, pointed out that the conservative and tough standards did not get Iran even one step further and failed to put leverage on foreign sanctions. Qalibaf equally pointed out the insufficient results of Jalili’s diplomatic approach.
However, Jalili’s strong line in foreign policy seems to be supported by the Supreme Leader, who called on the candidates not to give in to the West and avoid making concessions. This seems to favour Jalili and strengthen his position, while Khamenei declared having no favourite among the presidential candidates. Yet, his calling on the candidates to favour one foreign policy line over another draws attention to the fact that the final decision is actually in his hands.
The biggest issue of the Iranian foreign policy debate is, then, whether or not to make concessions with the West and engage in negotiations. We see arguments on both sides, and stay without clear indication of popular support for either one of the proposed lines. Then again, Khamenei’s support may be decisive in the outcome.